A look at how we can learn to embrace our emotions and live in harmony.
Emotions are important parts of who we are in this physical life that provide us with information on what is happening internally. If we pay attention carefully, with observation and patience, we can become accepting of these with an understanding that something inside needs our attention. If we give our full attention in a mature and calm way, most of the time we realise that it is something we can work through. Sometimes this can be a big situation, and other times a small nudge. But if we react and attach to emotions, depending on the type of emotion, we can experience it in excess and for a prolonged period of time which can affect our interactions with the external world and connection with our internal state. As I always teach my students, although it is nice to always want to be happy, this is not realistic. All emotions have a meaning and a need to be part of our life, and they will be. It’s just how life is. A rhythm of energy constantly moving and flowing.
In yoga philosophy, there is a beautiful way of looking at the word emotion as two words combined, e-energy and motion. Every time we experience an emotion, we can learn to see it as a energy in motion which takes our attention to it immediately. In the moment the emotion comes, we can choose to observe it and welcome it, or we can decide to instantly dismiss it, which means it goes back where it came from and it remains there until it is resolved so it will keep coming up, invited or uninvited. We are energy, and our emotions are just a reminder of this. There is no need to fear or judge them. Everybody has their own experience and ways of understanding and facing their emotions, therefore we should always focus on what works for us.
One aspect I have noticed is that sometimes there can be judgement when it comes to emotional states. If a person does not express their emotions, they can be called insensitive or cold; and if they do, they can be called out for being too sensitive. If somebody feels sadness and cries, they may be seen as dramatic or overreactive, whilst if another is feeling happy and excited and shows it, they can be seen as arrogant or a show off.
In my humble opinion, emotions don’t need to be validated by anybody else other than the person experiencing them. How we feel in that moment is ok and we should not expect anybody else to understand, because they are not feeling it. The way one person experiences happiness, can be different than another person. The same goes with all emotions, suffering, joy, pain, sadness, grief, excitement, fear etc. We can indeed share our emotions with somebody who is open to listen, but we cannot put the responsibility on them nor to judge anybody for the way they feel. What we can do for each other is listen (if we are willing to do so) and to show some compassion, opinions are not always needed, but simply being there for somebody can be life changing for them.
Let’s look at some ways which might help in exploring and becoming friends with our emotions.
First and most importantly, we can learn to acknowledge and accept our emotions. I know it is easier said than done, but it is possible and we have the ability to do so. They are not there to disrupt our life, but to help us grow and evolve. I know this is difficult to take on, especially if the emotion is a heavy one, like hurt or sadness. But even in these, there is beauty. Through hurt and sadness, we can learn compassion and love. Through grief, we can become brave and open to learn to let go. By experiencing happiness and joy, we can learn the meaning of gratitude and appreciate life more. Through fear, we can learn courage and intelligent decision making. Through suffering, we can understand that our mind and body need to be cared for with love and kindness and so on.
Each emotion comes with a beautiful teaching and it is often not the emotion itself that creates an issue, but the way we react to it. So we can watch it, welcome it, sit with it, like we would with a dear friend. We can close our eyes and feel it, explore it with love and openness, in a safe space and when we feel ready to do so. And if we choose in that moment to welcome it with love, its message is revealed so clearly. Then we can use our intellect to make wise decisions about how to resolve whatever needs to be done so.
Once we acknowledge and accept our current emotional state, we can learn to help ourselves through it. If something doesn’t feel nice, then we tend to push it back inside or distract ourselves away from it; do anything to avoid experiencing it. This is an option and it is ok. At that time, that is what felt best and we don’t need to blame ourselves. But if we do this, then we must know that the emotion is still there and it will come back. And it will keep returning until we help ourselves to work through it. And the more we try to escape it, the more prominent it becomes in our life. And then we find ourselves in an emotional rollercoaster of constant reaction to things, people etc that really doesn’t need so much energy from us. Reacting increases heat in the body and the Pita dosha, which is associated with the fire element. The more we react, the more energy we consume and eventually feel exhausted. If we help ourselves through it, with practices of journaling, meditation, speaking with a professional healthcare practitioner in the field, exercise, nourish ourselves with good food, prioritise our sleep etc, then we will open a path of freedom from it, in a safe and wise way.
We can look at our emotions as little notifications that help us know ourselves. When we look in the mirror, we see a reflection of our physical self. But when we look within, the experience goes deeper than just this superficial layer. And this is a beautiful thing that we need not to be afraid of. Nobody can help us experience joy, other than ourselves. And nobody can release sadness we experience, only ourselves. We can lean on others for support, but we have to do the work. And this is wonderful, because like peeling an onion, we learn to go through each layer of ourselves, over and over again in this life. Until one day, maybe we reach a state when we truly know all these parts so well, that when an emotion rises, we welcome it with love and experience it with acceptance.
I am always a firm believer that small changes can create big differences. And in this case, if we choose to prioritise our overall wellness, we can experience a more harmonious state within. Some important lifestyle aspects to consider is that sleep is vital and rest is needed for the body to rejuvenate. Wholesome food is like medicine, nourishing and full of good energy to boost our overall functioning. Who we choose to surround ourselves with can have a big impact on our quality of life, so choose to surround yourself with loving, kind and caring persons. And remember that our bodies are made to move, so prioritising physical exercise can again be helpful. And one of the most important (in my opinion) is to be in nature as much as possible. There is so much wisdom in nature, so much beauty, love and good energy.
It’s always important to know that support is out there and available. We can reach out to people we love and will hold space for us in time of need, we can speak with a qualified healthcare practitioner in the field , we can read inspirational books, focus on our hobbies, learn something new, stimulate our body and mind with good information. find resources that can help. Through all these self-care practices, we can establish a healthier, more open and truthful relationship with ourselves and the external world.
And we can also learn to see life as a beautiful experience which comes with all these different energy shifts, ups and downs, highs and lows. As yoga philosophy, so beautifully teaches us, to remember that all is temporary and when we live from the essence of love, first for ourselves then the others and environment, we can begin to treat ourselves and different emotional states with care, compassion and understanding.